Classes with Anita

Exciting news happens so often and I usually forget to blog about it (not intentional – just time-poor ๐Ÿ™ ). But I must write about this one – I will be teaching classes at the new and upcoming cake decorating supply shop in Tuggeranong – Across The Board Cake Decorating Supplies!

The current line-up includes the following courses:

  • 30 June 2018 @ 10am – Unicorn cake
  • 8 September @ 10am – Mermaid drip cake
  • 29 September @ 10am – Semi-naked cake with gumpaste succulents

If you’re interested in enrolling into one of the classes and learning some of the techniques I use in creating cakes, you can book via the Classes page on the website.

Let’s go shopping!

So I haven’t done an official launch of my website’s shopfront, but I am excited about it unfolding live and in a more organic nature.

In the meantime, I am going to write a more technical post about how I managed to accomplish the shop up to this point. Probably the majority of people reading this blog are here for the cake posts, I know, but you just never know who may be more interested in the technical aspect of it (especially considering its unusual complexity of requiring multiple shipping origins).

Overview of technologies

There are a number of decent ones available, just find one that meets your needs. I am currently with a business package on Hosting Australia who provide excellent pricing and brilliant service, even on weekends.

You can either get this bundled with your web hosting package, or you can pay for one separately to have installed along with your website manually. Be sure to choose which one suits your needs. Please don’t disregard this step if you are intending to do online sale transactions to protect your customers’ data!

ย Why reinvent the wheel? There is a myriad of wonderful WordPress plugins that are absolutely free, so why not make the most of it? What’s great about WooCommerce are the number of additional plugin extensions you can get for it! Here is a list of the ones that I am (at this point in time) using to provide a seamless online shopping experience on my website. And best of all, these are all (at the time of writing this article) ABSOLUTELY FREE! ๐Ÿ™‚

WooCommerce Extension NameExtension Description
Multiple Packages for WooCommerceA simple UI to take advantage of multiple shipping packages without PHP knowledge
Payment Gateway Based Fees and Discounts for WooCommerceWooCommerce Payment Gateways Fees and Discounts.
Smart Send Shipping for WooCommerceAdd Smart Send Australian shipping calculations to Woo Commerce.
** REQUIRES VIP ACCOUNT **
Woo Checkout Field Editor ProCustomize WooCommerce checkout fields(Add, Edit, Delete and re-arrange fields).
WooCommerce Print Invoice & Delivery NotePrint Invoices & Delivery Notes for WooCommerce Orders.
WooCommerce SquareAdds ability to sync inventory between WooCommerce and Square POS. In addition, you can also make purchases through the Square payment gateway.

Now, before you go and just install everything willy-nilly, I will point out that WooCommerce on its own is a powerful plugin and I would probably say most people don’t necessarily need to add anything else on. But, in my case, I had some small things that I needed to tweak, and these extensions worked beautifully.

Customisations

Now wouldn’t it be lovely if every single thing worked straight outta the box?! While I would say 99% did, the complication I faced was that not everything I intended to sell would be shipped from the one origin address. Something that I thought there would be a plugin readily available for, but apparently not quite.

So what I did was divide and conquer the problem. I first installed the extension “Multiple Packages for WooCommerce” (mentioned in table above). This could then handle the splitting of packages via use of the product shipping class, so each package has its own set shipping fee. (This incidentally handles the issue of products that need to be limited to pick up only, ie fresh baked goods, fragile goods, or in the other industries, larger items).

The next stage was to then apply that same stream of logic (ie using the product shipping class) to then differentiate shipping origin address in the SmartSend plugin (I happened to be using SmartSend as my courier option, however I am sure there are equivalent courier plugins for other services in other countries). Now, as far as I am aware, I could have requested assistance for this issue directly with SmartSend and the developers probably could have created a solution for me. However, what kind of software programmer would I be if I had not at least attempted to resolve this for myself?

Overview of existing wordpress plugin Development

What you’ll need to develop an existing WordPress plugin:

  • FTP client, such as FileZilla client
  • Your FTP credentials to log onto your website’s hosting files
  • A PHP editor, such as Notepad++
  • AgentRansack (optional) – a fast and efficient way to search through folders, based on search terms “filename” and “containing text”.

Once you’ve logged into your website’s FTP, you can then locate the plugin you want to develop under directory (in this particular example, we are going to develop on the SmartSend plugin, located under public_html/wp-content/plugins/woocommerce-smart-send-australian-shipping).

I tend to download the entire directory to my local drive, and then make a copy under a BACKUP folder. Just in case I mess something up, I can then roll back hehe

Now, the development that I did, all happened to be contained in one file: smartsend-plugin.php.

I won’t delve into specific details at this stage of what I changed, however here is an overview.

Problem: Need to assign a different shipping origin for Bakels products

Solution:

  1. Create new Shipping Class “Bakels” as part of Multiple Packages plugin use, which splits the cart items by Shipping Class
    WooCommerce Shipping Classes

    WooCommerce Shipping Classes

  2. In the product itself, you’ll need to select “Bakels” shipping class so that they correlate
    Assign shipping class to product

    Assign shipping class to product

  3. Edit smartsend-plugin.php file, add new fields in init_form_fields method
    Updated SmartSend plugin settings page

    Updated SmartSend plugin settings page

    • Add new “Select” element: drop down list of all the registered Shipping Classes – will be Bakels
    • Add new form fields: secondary Origin Address details which correlates to that specific Shipping Class – where the Bakels shipping class items will be shipped from
  4. Edit smartsend-plugin.php file, where in the code it calls the setFrom method, insert code such that pseudocode is
    For each item in shopping cart
       If item has shipping class "Bakels"
          Call setFrom method using Secondary Origin Address
          break;
       Else
          Call setFrom method using Primary Origin Address

I think that covers it – not bad eh? Then when in use, you’ll see:

Cart split

Cart split

A useful tip – when developing PHP on WordPress, it’s hard to debug. Learnt this nifty little piece of code that you can insert into PHP that will dump to the output anything you need, example:

var_dump($shopping_cart)

Happy coding everyone! ๐Ÿ™‚

Custom coloured cachous (sugar pearls)

Ever had a cake that you wanted a very specific colour for cachous/sugar pearls and couldn’t find it? I’ve just landed in that very situation (and I really wouldn’t have thought purple was a tricky one to get, but there you go).

So in that situation – what do you do? I looked online for some ideas.. airbrush them, shake them in luster dust, paint them.. so many options really. But being short on time (as most people are these days) I wanted something quick n easy.

I got a small container, dumped in regular white cachous, put in a quarter teaspoon or so of purple luster dust and gave it a shake. Opened the lid and was disappointed at what I was looking at.. very dull purple. I was hoping for something a tad more vibrant.

And that’s when it hit me, just like with gold, you add alcohol/spirit to make it a paint and suddenly it coats whatever you’re painting really well. So in that spirit, I added a teeny amount of alcohol and gave it another shake. Voila! The colour became vibrant and there was no doubt that the sugar pearls were now purple in colour ^_^

I spread them out onto some baking paper and allowed to dry. Very happy with the results and look forward to using them for this weekend’s cake ๐Ÿ™‚

Purple coloured cachous

Purple coloured cachous

 

Latest updates

Hi guys! Thought I’d drop a quick post to let everyone know that I’ve done a some updates to the site (never-ending, isn’t it?)

Firstly, I have now got integration between the date selector widget on my enquiry page and my Google calendar. If you are not able to select a particular date on the enquiry form due to it being unavailable, this is not an error – it is because I have already blocked it as busy in my Google orders calendar and cannot take on another cake for that date. Hopefully this will aid in people knowing even prior to submitting an enquiry whether I am available or not (alternatively, you can confirm my availability on the availability page).

Secondly, I have now introduced a flavours menu. Take a look if you have a minute and let me know what you think ๐Ÿ™‚ Remember, these are merely suggestions – this is a custom cake and itย  is definitely not limited to what is seen on the menu. I’ve just received a lot of feedback that there is a lot of options and I suspect it all getsย  a bit overwhelming. I have currently got 14 flavour profiles on there, I hope it’s not too many.

And thirdly, I have launched a Valentines Day promo. This will include an assortment of goodies intended to be shared with a loved one (or loved ones – I think there will be enough there to share with kids too ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). If you’re keen, simply contact me and place an order ๐Ÿ™‚

Changes coming in 2018…

Firstly, I want to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone that has supported me in my caking journey this year. It’s been an absolute ball and I’m so very humbled with the way my little business has taken off – it’s been an absolute blessing and beyond my wildest dreams <3

It’s actually going so well, that I’m now needing to instill some new methods on coping with growth as I juggle my daytime job, motherhood and my overall well-being, while still being able to continue doing cakes ๐Ÿ™‚ Here is a shortlist of the major changes that will be coming in as of 2018:

  • Last minute cake orders – There will now be a 2 week minimum required notice for a cake (note:ย this doesย not include lactation cookies or cupcakes). This allows enough time for cake deposit payment as well as me getting all the required ingredients and supplies in order to fulfil the orders in a more organised fashion. As much as I would love to offer last minute cakes, I admit I am finding it a challenge juggling my daytime job and motherhood as well as trying to fit cakes in at the last minute (admittedly, I haven’t been able to accommodate a ‘last-minute’ cake in quite some time as I’m usually booked, but thought I would explicitly state this from here on to avoid disappointment when I get calls – I always feel so bad not being able to help ๐Ÿ™ย  ).
  • Restricting booking places – Did you know that at some points during this year I was taking on up to 5 orders a week? I love doing cakes and I love being able to share that with everyone. Unfortunately though, it also leaves me fairly exhausted by the time it gets to a Sunday afternoon and I have that huge pile of dishes to get through, and it results in my family missing out on quality mum time. So it is with a heavy heart that I will need to really pull back in 2018 and limit cake orders to 1 or 2 maximum a week. First in, first served basis.
  • The ordering process – Following on from an order confirmation, I email an order invoice that contains information regarding deposit and pickup/delivery details. A non-refundable deposit/booking fee payment will need to be paid 2 weeks prior to order. Failure to pay the deposit/booking fee will result in order cancellation.
  • Collection time – I will be allowing a strict half-hour window for pick ups. If you are running late, please advise via phone call or SMS as soon as possible to inform me and it may be possible for me to extend the time (I understand sometimes things happen and running late is unavoidable). However, due to family, work and other order delivery commitments, I am unfortunately no longer going to be able to offer flexibility on pickups.

If anyone has any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me for clarification on any of these points. It is unfortunate that I will need to reduce the amount of cakes that I can take on, however I feel it’s now important to return more of me to my family and friends time.

Wishing everyone a magical Christmas, thank you all once again for your support this year, and I’m looking forward to another great year sharing cake creations with you in 2018 xx

Website updates and market news

Website Updates

As you may or may not know, I am a computer programmer by day. I have been pondering about how I could improve on my services to make things easier for you to navigate your way around this website. I have now introduced two new features for this website to help you on your cake ordering journey.

The first, is the interactive Cake Customizer. Here you will be taken through question prompts in order to refine what exact cake, filling and finish you want for your cake. You can then provide this information to me so I can create your cake exactly how you want it ๐Ÿ˜€ If you have any feedback on how it could be improved, please don’t hesitate to let me know. This is all about improving your cake ordering experience. I will eventually expand on it to include serves/sizes and indicative prices as well.

Secondly, I have created a Delivery fee estimator so you can see what it would cost for delivery of your cake to you. I have streamlined all the different factors into this one tool, so it should be fairly accurate at this stage. Unfortunately this still does not guarantee that I will be able to deliver, so please discuss with me to confirm delivery availability.

Market News

Unfortunately I have had to pull out of the monthly Lions Tuggeranong Community Markets. There were a number of factors that influenced this decision, the most important one being family time. Between my day job and custom cake orders, I sometimes find it difficult to spend quality time with my family. I appreciate all the support I did receive while I was attending, and hopefully I can revisit the markets another time.

The Markets

I apologise for the lengthy delay in getting a new post out! But life has been very busy of late and here I am, finally able to find the time to get a new blog post, simply because I am on holidays! Between family commitments, work commitments, custom cake/cupcake orders (which isn’t only making the cakes, but ensuring I get all the ingredients, supplies, cooking, cleaning, organising, quotes, etc), and now doing monthly markets, there just isn’t enough time to do blog posts for each order. I now intend to do blog posts for anything new that I think is worth sharing with you all – such as recipes, techniques or news on what’s happening with the business.

So, this post’s topic, which I am sure you gathered from the title, is about me now going to the markets. That’s right, now you don’t need to make custom orders for cupcakes with minimum order of 12 – you can simply head down to the markets each month to buy one (or a box of 4 if you want to take some home).

Over the top cupcakes

Over the top cupcakes – Winner of People’s Choice award, “Other Sweet Treats” category, Australian Cake Decorating Network

Which markets: Tuggeranong Lions Community Markets

When: second Sunday of each month, 9am-2pm

Where: Calwell High School gym, 111 Casey Crescent, Calwell

A mention in the Sunday Canberra Times newspaper

A mention in the Sunday Canberra Times newspaper

The implication of this is that those weekends where I have the markets are now going to be very restricted in terms of the number of custom cake orders I can take on, as I’ll need to be working on these delicious goodies for the markets ๐Ÿ™‚

Look forward to seeing you there! xx

The Baseball Cap Cake

To say that this cake was tricky for me would be an understatement. For something as simple as this design, I found it fairly complicated lol here is the baseball cap cake:

IMG_20170402_195600_288

So let’s start by explaining what you are looking at:

  • 9″ carved chocolate mudcake, filled and coated with vanilla bean buttercream and sitting on its own silver cardboard cakeboard (which is stuck onto the base board using some extra buttercream)
  • 15″ x 15″ masonite board covered with Forest Green Fondtastic fondant in the design of a baseball diamond (I have also applied grass green satin ribbon to the outside of the board which you can’t really see from these images – just used my trusty Blu-stick for this)
  • Custom coloured Bakels fondant to cover the cap and create the brim (I will get into this more a little later)
  • White fondant letter cutouts, adhered to the cap and board using this product called “Sticky stuff” which I got my my local cake supply store

I was provided pictures of the cap that was to be replicated into cake, based on the cap played by the Rebels Baseball Club that the birthday boy is part of. Looking through the articles, it appears that this young talent will be making his way to the USA as part of the MLB World Select Team which is really amazing – I sincerely wish him all the best with it, he should be very proud of himself to make it this far already as it is a huge accomplishment.

Anyway, I digress from the cake! So in the process of making the maroon colour, I bought a couple bottles of Americolor Maroon thinking using that would be enough. Aaaand no. I kneaded in the colour into the fondant and left it overnight to progress – it turned into a burgundy colour ๐Ÿ™ย  I posted onto the Australian Cake Decorators Network the question of colour and needing help and was linked to this article which illustrates how to achieve colours. I am so glad that I had asked for help because I was intending to add brown to the burgundy thinking that would achieve the maroon – nope! It’s red lol

As for getting the letters cut – I used letter cutters for the name, age and “EST. 1958” (they’re a Wilton set which I thoroughly recommend buying if you’re a cakemaker, as I use these all the time). The R on the front of the cap I handmade. Yep. That took about an hour on its own to achieve lol Steps to making it?:

  • Get the picture sent from the customer
  • Make adjustments to the image using an image editor – turning it black and white, turning up the contrast and inverting it so that the R was black on white background.
  • Print the new image in a range of different sizes as I didn’t know which one would work best on the cake
  • Trace this onto baking paper and cut out out
  • Roll out fondant, place the baking paper cutout onto it and then using an x-acto knife cut the fondant around the template

Placing it onto the cake and getting everything in the right place was so challenging too for me. I am a bit of a perfectionist and getting everything to look just right took me a while!

Anyhoo, I feel I learnt a lot from making this particular cake, and I’m very thankful (and humbled) for the customer in trusting me to create this very special cake for Cooper’s 16th ๐Ÿ™‚

The Pirate Themed Birthday Cake

IMG_20170325_095427_448

My first go at doing a rectangle cake! I think I did alright. Pirate themed cake, featuring 3 layers of chocolate sponge cake, filed and frosted with vanilla buttercream. Decorated with a fondant map, chocolate coins, pirate candles and custom made pirate flags, arrgghhh!

For the sand, I crushed up some Arnotts Scotch Finger biscuits. I think it adds to the realism to not crush it too much – keep some larger, just a quick blitz in the food processor does the trick. I used Fooddoodler edible markers to draw on the fondant map.

Now I’ve done a cake in the past where I’ve rolled my own fondant into long sausages and made rope with them. This time, I used my new tool – the fondant extruder. O.M.G. This is by far one of the best investments I’ve made for my caking toolbox! I got one like this. I chose it based on other reviews online that said the winding one like this was easier to use, and I have to say that this one is a breeze to use. For this cake I used it to make the rope border by using the disc that looks like it’s been punched with 3 holes. Once it’s been extruded you can then twist it and voila, easy rope that looks even and neat! Doing this cake has inspired me to create a page of caking tool must-haves.

The Whale Shark Cake

This is the second cake that involved an underwater scene that I’ve done – so I felt pretty confident in how to decorate it this time.

IMG_20170318_231536_848The cake itself: 2-layer 8″ chocolate mudcake, filled and coated with white chocolate ganache (coloured blue though haha!) The accents have all been done using coloured fondant. The whale shark itself was also made using fondant. The colouring was a mix of royal blue and black. The spots were done using Americolor Bright White painted on. Took a little bit of time for me to get the spots done right – I wanted it to look a bit authentic, with tiny dots at the ends of the shark but bigger spots on the centre of the body (I find it’s those little details that makes such a big difference to the overall look of a topper).

20170318_123141As with my previous underwater cake, I thought it might be nice to do the textured top to the cake with the waves. I feel each medium should be used to its advantages, ie when you have a frosting/ganache that you can texture like this, you should go for it! I don’t think you would be able to achieve such an affect with fondant. The longer I cake, the more I realise that it’s just like doing art – you have your different mediums and each have their pros and cons. There is no right or wrong.

I admit that when I first started caking, I was going to limit my cakes to buttercream only. But I quickly realised that it’s soooo limiting to do that! The use of fondant definitely has its places. It’s so great to be able to play with all mediums and try to find what works best for what purpose.

20170318_123726In order to do the other fondant creatures (starfish, crab and seahorse), I lined the chocolate mould with Crisco prior to putting in the fondant. I’ve found that to be a pretty effective way to be able to get the fondant out afterwards easily. (Last time I used cornflour – I found it a bit messy lol)